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Microsoft AzureCon Keynote Announcements

On Thursday, October 1st Microsoft made several announcements regarding their Azure Platform.  These announcement include 3 new Azure regions in India, GPU support, Security Center, IoT Suite and Container Service.

Microsoft has made investments into India where three new Azure regions reached general availability.  These new regions include Mumbai (West), Chennai (South) and Pune (Central).  This brings the total number of Azure regions to 24. Microsoft has been vocal about this milestone as it represents “more regions than AWS and Google combined.” Over 125 customers and partners were using the Indian regions in a private preview and now they are available to any organization.

NVidia and Microsoft have teamed up to provide N-series Virtual Machines with GPU support, based upon the Tesla line of GPUs.  Leveraging GPUs will allow for applications requiring high levels of computation to run in the cloud.  This will offer organizations, that typically purchase high-end engineering workstations, to take advantage of cloud based VMs in an elastic payment model.

During the AzureCon keynote, Scott Guthrie, executive vice president of the Microsoft Cloud and Enterprise group announced a new service called Azure Security Center.  The intent of Azure Security Center is to provide a centralized view of the security state of your Azure assets.

Administrators can create customizable polices that govern what security services can be deployed.  The security service is also able to provide recommendations on how some potential threats can be dealt with. An example of a policy that can be implemented includes web applications to require a firewall be enabled.  In the event a developer provisions a web application without one, administrators will be informed and a workflow will begin that allows for a firewall to be deployed. 

Microsoft is building an ecosystem that includes partners.  As a result, partner services can be detected and deployed via these policies.  Some of the partners include f5, Cisco, Trend Micro, Check Point and Barracuda.

The following image provides a representation of the experience an administrator can expect on their dashboard.

Azure Security Center

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In recent weeks, both Amazon and Salesforce unveiled their Internet of Things (IoT) platform plans.  Microsoft has responded with their own plans for their IoT offering called Azure IoT Suite.  The Azure IoT Suite is an end-to-end solution that provides the following components and services.

Device SDKs that support development in C, C#, Java and JavaScript.

Security is addressed through Per-device authentication and secure connectivity which allows administrators to whitelist or blacklist a device remotely.

Microsoft has standardized its cloud based messaging on the HTTP 1.1 and AMQP 1.0 protocols.  These protocols will be native IoT protocols in the platform. Extensibility is addressed through an open source protocol gateway which currently includes support for MQTT v3.1.1.

As a result of the IoT platform being available in Azure, customers are able to scale on-demand to support simultaneously connected devices and millions of events per second.

As part of the launch, Microsoft has provided a starter kit that allows developers to quickly provision a complete Azure IoT Suite to an Azure subscription. The sample solution covers a remote monitoring scenario where an organization is able to monitor the health of its industrial devices.  This information is collected, via a device emulator, sent to an Azure IoT Hub and then displayed in a portal as illustrated in the following image.

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In the center of the Microsoft Azure IoT Suite is a Platform as a Service (PaaS) offering much like Salesforce and Amazon’s offerings.  Jesus Rodriguez, managing partner at Tellago, positions Microsoft, along with Salesforce and Amazon as early leaders in part due to their ability to plug in other cloud-based services such as Stream Analytics Engines.  “Stream analytics is a key component of real world IOT solutions and one that is really hard to implement. Salesforce, Azure IOT Hub and the AWS IOT platforms all include highly sophisticated stream analytics engines as part of their solutions.”

The last major announcement at AzureCon involves a new container service called Azure Container Service. The technology behind this service is the widely used Apache Mesos project.  Guthrie describes the service as a way to “enable users to easily create and manage a Docker enabled Apache Mesos cluster.”  Microsoft has built an administration experience around the Apache Mesos capabilities.  These administrative features include tagging of resources, Role Based Access Control (RBAC), and Virtual Machine Scale Sets (VMSS) all managed within the Azure Portal.

For more details, all sessions presented at AzureCon are available online.

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